ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

perfectly clear ; and whether addressed to the Jews only, or to other nations, it is applicable to all men. Every offender is encouraged by it to repent of his sins, and humbly to seek the mercy of God.

The doctrine of the text is this, that if a wicked man will repent of his sins, alter his course of life, and obey the commandments of God, he shall obtain forgiveness from his Maker. This is one of the most important and consoling truths made known by divine revelation. I mean not at present to inquire, whether it could have been discovered by the light of nature : on this point there are different opinions : we need not perplex ourselves with them : it is sufficient for us that the Bible declares, that a repentant sinner has everything to hope from the mercy of God.

Though we decline considering this particular question, it may perhaps be necessary to observe, that it is not inconsistent with the justice of God to forgive sinners on their repentance. A number of Christians have supposed, that divine justice cannot pardon a sinner, unless, in addition to his reformation, full satisfaction is also made, in another way, for all his past offences. But does not this supposition deprive the Supreme Being of the attribute of mercy? Where full satisfaction is made, pardon is not an act of mercy, but of equity. It is impossible that a man should atone for his past transgressions in any other way, than by changing his conduct. In this case, ceasing to be what he formerly was, punishment becomes unnecessary.

Sufficient honor is done to the perfection of the divine law by the sinner, who by his conversion declares, that it is a good law and ought to be obeyed. Mercy therefore may reasonably be extended toward him; nor can justice forbid that it should be.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

What is the end of the Deity in the government of the world ?' Is it not to make men happy by making them virtuous ? When therefore they become so, when they cease to be vicious, what good purpose can it answer to render them miserable? Why should any metaphysical ideas of the justice of God lead us to suppose, that they who are now holy, who abhor their former characters, and who sincerely resolve never to repeat their crimes, are unworthy of the divine mercy, and qught to be punished with unutterable torments.

We cannot reasonably suppose it. We ought then to receive the text in its siinple and obvious meaning. We ought to believe that God will forgive the sinner on his repentance, without any other condition. This, as I have suggested, is the doctrine of the Scriptures. One design of our Saviour's mission into the world was to make this truth known; as the Prophet teaches us in this chapter: I have given him, says God, for a witness to the people--and his instruction is --- Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found ; call upon him, while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and return unto the Lord; and he will have mercy on him.

This doctrine of the Scriptures, that God forgives the repentant sinner, which is so positively asserted in the text, leads us to make several interesting reflections.

1. In the first place, it exhibits the character of our heavenly Father in the most amiable light, and induces us to love him above all objects. The foundation of true piety is just and honorable ideas of the benevolence of God. When we think of him only as a Being, who is arrayed with terror and armed with vengeance, we fear, but we do not love him. It is to his goodness that

SERMON XI.

us.

at is the end of the Deity in the government of

Id? Is it not to make men happy by making virtuous ? When therefore they become so, when ease to be vicious, what good purpose can it as :o render them miserable? Why should any most ral ideas of the justice of God lead us to suppose,

who are now holy, who abhor their former ters, and who sincerely resolve never to repeat crimes, are unworthy of the divine mercy, and : to be punished with unutterable torments. e cannot reasonably suppose it

. We ought them to e the text in its simple and obvious meaning

[ocr errors]

we give our affection; or, to express myself in the language of St John, we love him, because he first loved

His unbounded benevolence is our consolation and support. Upon his benevolence we depend with security; and we trust we are in the hands of a God, who continually delights to do us good. His mercy is the most amiable modification of his benevolence. His benevolence leads him to love his creatures in general ; but his mercy induces him to love them, who have offended him, who are his enemies, who are unworthy of his love. In what strong terms is this represented in the text! God will have mercy upon the sinner: he will abundantly pardon him. There are many other affecting passages of the same kind in the sacred volume. The Lord, says Moses, is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression. To the same purpose the Psalmist speaks: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide ; neither will he keep his anger forever.

, to believe that God will forgive the sinner on his se xe, without any other condition. This, as I svested, is the doctrine of the Scriptures

. One de f our Saviour's mission into the world was to make uth known; as the Prophet teaches us in this 'r: I have given him, says God, for a witnes no

He hath not dealt with us after our sins ; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Can we forbear to love a Being, who is so compassionate ? Can we forbear to comply with the easy terms, which are necessary to obtain his favor?

ople-- and his instruction is -- Seek ye the Lord, fic may be found ; call upon him, while he is near je wicked forsake his way, and return unto the , and he will have mercy on him. s doctrine of the Scriptures

, that God forgives the ant sinner, which is so positively asserted in the ads us to make several interesting reflections

2. The mercy of God ought to lead us to repentance. If, when we had sinned, our doom was irrevocably fixed, and we had no hope of obtaining pardon, we should have nothing to do but to give ourselves up to despair, and not make any useless efforts to retrieve our character. But the Bible declares, that there is room for hope, that there are still many motives for exertion. It teaches us that it is never too late to attempt a reforma,

o the first place, it exhibits the character of our y Father in the most amiable light, and induces we him above all objects. The foundation ?y is just and honorable ideas of the benevolence

When we think of him only as a Being, who d with terror and armed with vengeance

, ma we do not love him. It is to his goodness for

[ocr errors][merged small]

tion. God will forgive not only one offence but innumerable transgressions. Though we have rendered our souls as scarlet with sin ; yet God will make them, if we are humble and contrite, whiter than the pure wool. For his thoughts are not our thoughts; neither are his ways our ways. We cannot easily forgive, when we have been repeatedly injured; but fthe compassion of God is abundant in pardon ; and though we grievously offend him, yet if we return and repent, he will still forgive us.

Let a knowledge of this important truth induce you, who are bewildered in the mazes of sin, and who are wandering in the paths of destruction, to return, like the penitent prodigal, to the house of your father. The ways

of vice are intricate and dismal. No light, no comfort can be found in them. The pleasures which it promised are soon experienced to be illusions. Your heart is torn with a thousand conflicting passions. Whithersoever you turn, the sharp points of conscience wound soul. Would

you remain in this painful situation, if you believed it possible to escape ? It is possible: divine revelation assures you that it is. The text authorizes me to declare, that there is a passage, through which you can flee: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Perhaps you are conscious of having been guilty of so many offences, that you think it impossible that you should obtain favor. You fear that you have outlived your day of grace, and that you have now no hope of pardon. But the mercy of God is not limited to any particular number of offences. It is a broad and deep

your soul.

ne to declare, that there is a passage, through

to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and

obtain favor. You fear that you have outlired

God will forgive not only one offence but imorIr transgressions. Though we have rendered our :- scarlet with sin ; yet God will make them, if we

ble and contrite, whiter than the pure woel s thoughts are not our thoughts ; neither are his Jr ways. We cannot easily forgive

, when we Owen repeatedly injured; but the compassion of s abundant in pardon ; and though we grievous sim, yet if we return and repent

, he will still bir

.." 1 a knowledge of this important truth induce yox, op bewildered in the mazes of sin, and who are ring in the paths of destruction, to return, like the 11t 'prodigal, to the house of your Father. The of rice are intricate and dismal. No light

, no com. a be found in them. The pleasures which it pro are soon experienced to be illusions. Your heart with a thousand conflicting passions. Whither. you tum, the sharp points of conscience wound sul. Would you remain in this painful situation, believed it possible to escape ? It is possible

: de e relation assures

you

that it is. The text author

ocean, of sufficient capacity to receive them all. Look into the sacred history, and you will find that atrocious sinners have been forgiven; the idolatrous Manasseh ; the persecuting Paul; Peter, who profanely and ungratefully denied his Master; and even David, who was guilty of the crimes of adultery and murder. Some of these persons became afterward by their eminent virtues the ornaments of human nature. You perceive by these examples, that it is possible to reform, and to efface your sins, however black they may be.

The apprehension, that the mercy of God is limited, is not then a reasonable motive; and it ought to have no influence upon you; there are other causes which obstruct your conversion. You experience that the way of the transgressor is hard ; but you are afraid that the way of the righteous man is still more difficult. It is laborious to begin on a new course, and to alter your

former habits of life. You have to study the eleinents of virtue, to learn a new language, the language of heaven, and to unlearn the language of sin, which you now speak. This is a double labor; and you think that it cannot be

But let me beseech you to make the effort. You will find the task easier the further you proceed. God, who is your Master in this great science, will assist you with every necessary instruction; good men will applaud your industry, and animate you to persevere; and unless you acquire this knowledge, you know that you cannot be happy; nay, you are certain that you must inevitably be miserable.

Another cause which may prevent your returning to God is the fear of what the world will say, should you attempt to reform. But what is this world, of which you are so much afraid? Is it composed of the wise and

overcome.

you can flee: Let the wicked forsake his way e uprighteous man his thoughts; and let hien !

God, for he will abundantly pardon. raps you are conscious of having been guilty of ir offences, that you think it impossible that you

hope of

now no

ly of grace, and that

you

have But the mercy of God is not limited to a91 ur number of offences. It is a broad and deep

« 前へ次へ »